Monday, January 8, 2018

The Church of God Spanking Tents

The following is a letter that was sent to Exit and Support in 2002 regarding the spanking tents at the Feast of Tabernacles. This has been a big topic of discussion on certain private Facebook pages recently.

The Spank Tent

Even today, as a grown woman, I feel like a lightning bolt will come through the ceiling and strike me for writing one of the "stories" from my WCG childhood. This story is special to me, probably because it is actually my earliest memory.

It was 1973 in Jekyll Island, Florida at "the feast" so I couldn't have been any older than 2 years old. By the way, I remember my mother holding my arm, so I doubt I had been walking long, at least not well! Apparently, I had been crying or misbehaving in the services (which were held in miserable heat under a big canopy tent) when I was taken outside for disciplinary proceedings by my mother. Bear in mind the fact that on 3 days out of the 7, we endured two services a day. Each service ran between 2 and a half to 3 hours or more in length. Unsuccessful in quieting me inside the service, she led me to another tent which she explained was the "spank tent" for unruly children. In fact, it was a tent solely designated for the spanking of children. I remember hearing what sounded like children being tortured; crying, screaming, pleading for mercy, smacking sounds, etc. I cannot explain how horrific a feeling that was; my own mother taking me to a "torture chamber" for children, condoned by "the church," put there by "the church." Hoping that my mother and "the church" would find it in their hearts to let me live so I would have another chance to redeem myself as something other than "spank tent" material, I quickly stopped crying (after quite some time in the tent) and was allowed another shot at permissible behavior inside the service. 

"Children are to be seen and not heard" was a common phrase spoken to me and many, many other children by parents and church leaders. I only remember dreading those services and wondering what if I would be killed someday for being too loud. Young children have bizarre thoughts like that. Of course, common folks (those outside the church) often praised us kids for our impeccable behavior! Sure we were good!! We didn't want to go to "the tent!" As a mother today of a 5-year-old son, it is not okay with me to spank him. I have such bad memories/feelings of the inappropriate discipline (from my own childhood) that I probably go too easy on my son. Either way, I'll take my chances. I would never want my son to feel like he was only worthy of love when he was being the perfect child. There were countless other children who endured this same "disciplinary attitude" and I hope they have realized that "the rod" is not as it had been misinterpreted by church leadership. If they had any idea the pain they've caused, surely they would be sorry! But maybe not. 

By India - Child survivor of WCG (first name used with permission)
March 12, 2002 

Read her other horror story about SEP here.

For further information on spanking check these out:


Samuel Martin Speaks Out About Punching Children Controversy

David C Pack: Spank Your Children So They Fear You And God

Church of God Couple In Prison Over Beating Children With 2"x4"s, Metal Pipes, and Whips



Ann said...

Spanking can be darn dangerous. You can chip or break the tailbone which is the cauda equina area controlling sexual feelings and the ability to control the bladder and bowels and walking. If broken or chipped you can lose continence or sustain some injuries that are pretty awful.
The church uses 'spare the rod', but isn't that a shepherd's rod? What shepherd ever beat his sheep? The rod should beat off wolves (and churches) that try to harm children. The rod should create a barrier between children and people or things that would harm them not cause physical damage to a child
At a party in the CoG, a woman kept spanking her 14-month-old for fidgeting.
It was frightening to witness a baby being subjected to pain and fear they could not understand. Babies fidget it is natural.
After the 3rd time she began to take him to the bathroom I told her if she hit him again I would hit her and then call the Dept of Youth and Family Services. She didn't hit him again.

Anonymous said...

The person that wrote that is a bearing false witness. The church never had spanking tents.

nck said...

What a horrible experience this lady had.

At the Feast my mum thought kindergarten would be fun for me. Never again with all those stinky noisy kids. I'd rather sit through sermons with Meredith screaming, while I watched the colored lightbulbs shine like tiny stars and droodled my Rorschachs. I was so happy to see my mother after kindergarten that a minister admonished her to be careful, with me jumping up and down from joy. I thought, who is that fellar talking to my mum. She said that is Mr Plache.

At camp I do remember my dorm mates receiving the occassional paddle for corrective purposes. I never actually saw one or knew what a paddle looked like (I imagined a broken boatpaddle). Most of those I knew at the receiving end of the paddle turned out to be bankers or commodity traders or served in the Israeli armed forces as pseudo jews. Those who didn't see a paddle went on to become doctors, publishers or world travellers.

Those who would break the paddle on the minister if charged have careers into technical management or engineering.

What mattered more was what happened at home. At home I received the "old fashioned pre dr Spock" kick em in the ass treatment, but it wasn't wcg related but more of a catholic thing. So I cannot speak about corporal punishment except for the after services beatings by my church mates (those who would pursue technical engineering).

Oh yes and the obstacle course at camp prepared by that philipino ex marine, who designed the courses in such a way, as he explained to all campers, that it would prepare us for the world, since he expected that not all of us would remain in the church.


Anonymous said...

my father whooped all four of us growing up, and his brother, who in those days was also a coger, on occasion whooped his two boys...

my fathers two sisters basically let their respective children do what they wanted growing up and i used to envy them, but once we all grew up and the spoiled kids became spoiled adults, they spent there adulthood in and out of state penitentiaries, they have dozens of illigitimate kids, at least one became a crackhead, one is a registered sex offender, the female cousins all had children out of wedlock starting in their teens; and those are just the cousins on my fathers side; i wont even bother to detail my mothers nephew doing life, his sister prostituting herself and dying tragically...

and this kind of scenario plays out in the black community all accross the natio...oh, and by the way: none of us what were raised in the church of God have had any of the aboved mentioned problems, and i believe our being disciplined, including spankings, played the role God intended for it to play...

Anonymous said...

The church did indeed have spanking rooms, tents, etc.
Rooms were dedicated to this at many feast sites. Sick stuff.
I am sure many others will also bear witness to this fact.

Connie Schmidt said...

Did RCM having spanking tents for disobedient wives back in the day?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't that tent was reserved for when he needed to spank his wife?

I can not imagine a man being so weak and insecure that he would have to spank his wife, as he bragged about doing many times.

Anonymous said...

Those posting here are obviously lying in order to smear the good name of the church. All of the feast sites I ever attended never had spanking rooms. You people will do anything you can to make Mr, Armstrong and the church look bad.

Anonymous said...

It's the kid's MOTHER who called it a "spanking room." The Feast site probably called it the "Mother's Room." It was the room where mothers had free rein to discipline their children in ways that would have been disruptive in the meeting room.

David Rickman said...

Anon 2:50 PM, The WCG/GCI and all of the breakaway groups are nothing more than lying cults!!! HWA and his womanizer son GTA were bad men who walked all over the backs of the poor tithe slaves! If you are so stupid to not realize what a horrible church and what horrible people run those cults, you need serious psychiatric help!!!

RSK said...

I suspect this was the forerunner of the "Mothers' Room" more familiar in latter years' Feast venues.
Never went in the Mothers' Room that I can recall, so I have no testimony to give.

Anonymous said...

i have to agree somewhat with rickman: the armstrongs (and frankly many of the hierarchy) were absolute hypocrites in many ways; having said that: the way my father, as a single parent, and his brother and wife successfully raised their respective children, and the Churchs contribution to this, cannot be overstated...

Anonymous said...

I attended the Feast every year from 1966 forward (was born in first half of 66), and was spanked plenty of times by my parents. However, I never saw any such thing as a speaking tent. This includes Feast sites attended through these years including Big Sandy, Squaw Valley, Ozarks, and Wisconsin Dells. I don't recall ever being spanked at church (thought I remember plenty of spankings at home), nor do I remember any place set aside for spanking at the Feast. Based on my experience, I think this person's mom was taking her to the Mather's room and threatened her to try to get her to be quiet. I'm certainly not implying that was a good idea, any more than my 3 - 5 spankings a week were a good idea. Just saying that as a child who grew up in the church in that era, I'm pretty sure spanking tents did not exist.

Byker Bob said...

Well, I’m sure that Hitler didn’t call the showers in his concentration camps “the gas chamber”, either. But you have to look at what really went on in there.

The “Mother’s Room”, or “Mother’s Tent” came into being as a public relations device. In the early days, parents were horsewhipping their children over the hoods and fenders of their cars, in the parking lot at the Feast of Tabernacles where members of the non-cultic public could plainly see them. The ministry felt that that appeared to tarnish the good name of the church, so moved all such church-approved activities to a more private setting. In the old WCG, being in 100% control of your family put you on the fast track for ordination as a deacon, deaconess, President of Spokesman’s Club, or local elder. Whipping one’s children earned one high grades in that direction.

Now, it is just an urban legend that some of the abused teenagers originally called the Mothers’ Room by a slightly longer name, which was later cleaned up and shortened by the ministers. We were careful, not quite so blatant as that.

Spankings and forced fasting generally happened in the daily lives of WCG young people randomly, and often with no rational cause or explanation, and no correllation between severity of punishment and level of offense. Generally speaking, children were not punished to instill them with good values or character. They were punished when the particular behavior interfered with the parents’ practicing of Armstrongism, or embarrassed the parents in front of the brethren.

If people in the ACOGs are not experiencing these same deplorable conditions today, that is great. However, just because it may not be happening quite so much today, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen during the so-called “golden era” when HWA was still alive! It did, and is unfortunately, a part of the man’s legacy.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad I got spanked when I was a kid. Didn't do me any harm.

Anonymous said...

"I can not imagine a man being so weak and insecure that he would have to spank his wife, as he bragged about doing many times."

What does weak and insecure got to do with it? Duh. Stop projecting.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of spanking . . The Armstrongism Song

Anonymous said...

Is your child crying for no reason? Give 'em one! It's the "godly" way!

A) All respectable parents in 1950's America "knew" the only way to raise them "properly" included a regular regimen of regular "corporal punishment."

B) 1950's America was the nexus in human history in which human culture and the culture of god's future kingdom just happened to line up "perfectly"... (except for christmas, easter, halloween, the Korean war, the cold war, everyone smoked, the birth of the devil's music (rock'n'roll)...)

C) Therefore, all "godly" parenting includes a regular regimen of regular "corporal punishment."

nck said...

There is plenty of testimony of people who got spanked at home. There was no "spanking room" never nowhere, of course this was the "mothers room."

Childrearing is viewed differently today from the golden '50's years luckily.
Some speak about their experiences as small kids others as teenagers.
The fact of the matter is that in the fifties most young mothers were still teenagers themselves.

For a scientific view of all this one could google "desi arnaz spanking lucy" and look at the pictures popping up. Such picture would probably end any media career at the golden globes today. At the time it was pretty recognizable and therefore funny.

I'll save you all the statistics and legalities of the phenomenon (of both wife and children spanking) in the fifties although they offer interesting perspective.

I'm just satisfied that today science has increased in knowledge regarding less forcefull child rearing.
And I'm sure people from different walks of life still have varying interpretations.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be justice if those spanking bats were used on the ministers. They certainly deserve it. Well, at least I can day dream. Dave Pack would have to be head of the line.

Hoss said...

Either I wasn’t paying attention or the church area I attended didn’t have a problem with disciplining children. I can only remember our local minister warning parents that they and their children aren’t to mess around with things in our rented premises, which was a boy’s club. And there was a warning by our minister that he believed teenagers had been committing fornication at our FOT sock-hop. But I wasn't aware of extreme cases spanking and other disciplinary measures.

Not to say that other areas didn’t have problems: remember the letter from Dick Armstrong.

RSK said...

Maybe 1973 Jekyll Island coincided with a reissue of GTAs book.

Byker Bob said...

A comparison: Before Radio Church of God: occasional isolated spankings, two of which I remember. During Radio Church of God: 2 or 3 pants down spankings per day of 40 strokes with belts, spatulas, switches, and bitbat paddles. Copious amounts of tabasco sauce, forced fastings. This regime literally continued right up until the day before I got on the airliner for Ambassador College. Based on the extreme anger displayed by my parents, I didn’t think that the Holy Spirit took when they got baptized. But the church did. Dad was elevated from deacon to local elder shortly thereafter.

Oh well, at least I didn’t get thrown through a plate glass window like my younger brother, or threatened with Vietnam for buying a stereo like my other brother.


Anonymous said...

Talking of spanking, in the old Soviet Union, if one disagreed with communism, one was punished by being labeled mentally ill and sent to a psychiatrist hospital.
Herb copied this ploy by labeling whomever disagreed with him as unconverted, 'not getting it,' or not having the holy spirit.
This form of adult spanking is still rampant in the XCOGs.

It's these ministers rather than the accused members who belong in a padded cell.

Anonymous said...

I remember that the Feast ladies rooms served as torture chambers for children. I also saw kids bent over the bumpers of cars in the parking lots at Feasts being beaten. It's sad how brainwashed people would like to rewrite and whitewash history and claim it didn't happen. In countless WCG homes (including mine and friends of mine), the HWA/GTA inspired torture was horrific.

Near_Earth_Object said...

Disciplining a child in love and in the right way is a good thing. Disciplining a child to make a show of your personal righteousness is horrific. Some will say that the OT supported a energetic and vigorous approach to disciplining. The OT also spoke of the Phoenicians - a branch of the much despised Canaanites that Armstrongists erroneously believe to be Black people. Genetic research demonstrates that they were actually of the same stock as the Jews and one would not be able to distinguish between a Jew and a Canaanite by eye.

The Phoenicians had a religion in which they sacrificed their children publicly in order to placate their Gods, ensure the harvest and demonstrate their religions zeal. Select children were burned alive as drums were pounded loudly to hide the screams of agony. The parents of the sacrificed were accorded high status in the community for their great sacrifice. Some might have even made the rank of deacon.

Some Armstrongists commit the much condemned sin of the Phoenicians if they harm their children publicly in order to wave the banner of their own personal zeal and commitment. They are no better than the Phoenicians.

David Koresh at Waco, the Millerite brother of the Armstrongists, carried out a version of this at Waco. Little children literally burned up for his personal and perverted religious zeal.

nck said...


It was on the airwaves everyday and preached every week.

Thou shalt beat thy child 3 times a day and if they do not hearken and submit thou shalt throw them through glass.

So it was written.

There is a huge difference between acknowledging that this type of poor parenting existed in especially the US churches as a cultural phenomenon in a one of the only countries that to this day has not signed the international apropriate treaties on such behavior.

Or saying that each and every parent behaved this way to become a deacon or whatever.


Byker Bob said...

Actually, I’ve talked myself out on this topic over the years, paid for some excellent counselling and therapy years ago, out of my own pocket, and have largely succeeded in breaking the evil cycle. It is a joy listening to my son reason with and mentor to his daughters, educating and building up rather than savagely beating them.

The past abuse of children in the Armstrong cults is another huge problem, that church members treat in the same way as they treat HWA’s incest. They deny it, attempt to sweep it under the rug, and insist that anyone who remembers it or talks about it is lying. We lived it, and are not lying about it.

This horrible child abuse is proof positive that parents did not get the Holy Spirit through Armstrongism. They couldn’t have, or they would have died at the stake or other martyr’s deaths as Christians have throughout the past 2,000 years in resisting various other sins and evils commanded by authority figures. It’s not just that this makes their church look bad. It proves that God had nothing to do with their church in the first place.


Anonymous said...

It's always been my belief that the churches incessant 'beat your children' teaching was the ministers attempt to condition the youth to accept being mistreated by the ministers later in life.
The church culture has always been one of changing the environment (ie other people) so that church tyrants don't have to change. It's the victims, not the aggressors that need to change. Such is Armstrongite culture.

Still Learning said...

When someone says "It didn't happen" it just means that it didn't happen to them.
I never experienced any of that madness, thankfully, but it is gut-wrenching to read the stories of those who did. I certainly don't think the accounts are all lies. I admire the courage that it takes to tell and relive such painful memories, and to overcome the psychological damage inflicted.
Don't try to minimize someone else's reality just because it's different than yours.

Anonymous said...

9.33 PM
If you lose your arm, it doesn't grow back. Likewise the psychological damage from abuse is permanent as well. There is no 'overcoming' or healing. The main street media constantly mentions healing after a horrific crime. But it's a myth. The damage remains until the victims death.
This frequent mentioning of 'healing' is this cultures partiality to evil.

Anonymous said...

I clearly remember either 1963 or 64 in Jekyll Island there was a woman who constantly beat her toddler outside the tent on the ocean side at a park bench. She would wail on the baby, rhythmically, over and over and over like torture until I think it was GTA or another higher -up minister announced that she had to stop it immediately. I was like 9 or 10 and I can clearly remember hearing it during the quiet time during the sermon. In the 60's I do not remember a spanking tent at Jekyll, but certainly in the Poconos the Mothers room WAS used for spankings. There was a stop to it when I think someone alerted the CPS and women were told not to use the room to discipline kids. Several of them, I saw would take their kids out into the woods to do it. Most members who did not have kids would never have a reason to venture to the back of the facility so would not witness the punishments. They DID happen.

Anonymous said...

My mother would buy those souvenir paddles at gift shops during the feast, the ones marked "Board of Education." For any reason she'd make us lay on the bed and she'd hit us until she felt we cried in all sincerity. The last time I got hit, it was in the kitchen, for a "look on my face." I was 16, and she broke a handled breadboard on my back. My brother was beaten with a souvenir carved palm frond called "wife beater" for double locking the storm door while the step father was out walking the dog. He did not know he was out at the time, and had been screamed at for NOT locking the storm door a week before. Yes, good times at my house!

Byker Bob said...

PTSD definitely sticks with you to a certain degree. Depression and paranoia as well. But, one learns to compartmentalize and to employ workarounds. It’s not unlike the example of the film “A Beautiful Mind”.

Robert Stanton said...

In 1961 I went to the Feast of Tabernacles in Gladewater Texas, with my father. He wasn't in the church so he chose to sit in the car when I went into services. He saw children taken out and spanked in the back of the building. He told me that was wrong. I didn't agree with him, at the time. I was young and brainwashed,and thought spanking children was God's will.
Ten years latter I had my own children. For a very short time I spanked my first born child. Then I decided it was wrong. I stopped the spanking. I got my wife to agree to not spank.Kept it as secret,from the other church members. Then we got a new minister named Mr. Pack. He was a mean bastard. He kind of opened my eyes about how wrong the whole church was. So I walked out of that church and never looked back. Best decision of my life!